Reality Show Mob Wives, Joe Massino’s Machinations Left TG Graziano Out In The Cold

How unpopular was the VH1 reality show Mob Wives among New York Mafiosi?

Anthony Graziano and Joseph Massino on "vacation"
Anthony Graziano and Joseph Massino on "vacation."

It reportedly almost cost one Gambino associate an eyeball, not to mention life on this earth...

In July 2015 at the medium-security federal prison in Fairton, New Jersey, Gambino associate Albert (Albee) Crisci was nearly beaten to death, as Gang Land News revealed a month later.

He was hospitalized after the brutal assault administered by a group of inmates in a prison yard blind spot during morning recreation.

Crisci, who had once been a DeCavalcante crime family associate, was then associated with Gambino soldier Joseph (Joe Boy) Sclafani (since around 2010). Crisci had played a minor role in Sclafani’s drug ring. (Sclafani had his own links to the show: he was going to marry Ramona Rizzo when he was arrested for drug dealing and sent to prison. Ramona nixed the wedding. Sclafani was serving his sentence at a different prison than Crisci.)

"Those who tell shall burn in hell."

Among the suspects alleged to have committed the beating were Bonanno soldiers John (Johnny Joe) Spirito who is serving a 20-year sentence for the 1999 murder of Bronx-based Bonanno capo Gerlando (George From Canada) Sciascia and is due to be released next year, and former Bath Avenue Crew member Fabrizio (The Herder) DeFrancisci, who has about 10 years left on his sentence. Gambino soldier Thomas Orefice and Colombo soldier Joseph Savarese also allegedly participated in the beating.

Crisci suffered head trauma and the possible loss of an eye in what was allegedly a planned attack, Gang Land News reported, quoting a law enforcement official saying: "It was not a spontaneous fight between two inmates. It was a brutal assault by a bunch of inmates and it took place in a blind spot without any video camera coverage."

The motive was initially unknown.

Crisci knows how to use his hands and was "an unlikely candidate to have angered fellow inmates by becoming an informant." He sports a tattoo on his chest of a smiling young boy's face immersed in flames, with the warning, "Those who tell shall burn in hell." Crisci also has the words "Take The Fifth" inked on his stomach.

Then the rumor started making the rounds.  Crisci supposedly had been nearly beaten to death over the show Mob Wives.

His wife, with whom he was separated at the time, had been negotiating to appear on Mob Wives. Specifically, she supposedly had negotiated a role that paid her top-dollar, though ultimately, Danielle Crisci never appeared on Mob Wives.

Since Crisci didn't press charges, law enforcement never got to the bottom of the motive for the beating, as far as we can tell…..

Less open to debate, however, was the deep, abiding hatred for the reality show felt by one man, in particular. For years, Johnny Joe Spirito had badmouthed Mob Wives and was known to regularly denigrate TG Graziano for allowing his daughters to continue their association with the show. (His daughter Jennifer -- who once dated mob associate/club king/turncoat Chris (Ludwigsen) Paciello and went to prison for her involvement in ex-brother-in-law Hector Pagan's drug ring -- created and produced Mob Wives, and daughter Renee was among its stars. Renee regularly used social media to create the recurring impression that her father, a "real life Mafia capo," was actually going to  appear on Mob Wives. He never did -- viewers got Drita D'Avanzo's reformed bank robber husband, Lee, instead, ultimately -- but TG's never appearing was almost beside the point. Renee's social media prowess helped fuel the show's success, at least that's what we always believed, though it certainly didn't help her father's standing on the street.)

Johnny Joe was a true believer. Anyone affiliated with the show earned his animosity. For example, he reportedly also sent word to Eddie (The Tall Guy) Garofalo, Colombo crime family soldier, who was scheduled to be transferred to the same prison as Johnny Joe, that he wasn’t going to find a warm welcome when he reached his new digs. The Tall Guy supposedly had negotiated and allowed his wife, Alicia DiMichele, to appear on the show. For that infraction, Garofalo was reportedly told that he was on his own and wouldn’t have a place at meals or anywhere else in the prison among his fellow Italians.

As for TG, supposedly all Bonanno wiseguys had ceased communicating with him, after sending him the message: If you can't control your daughters, how can we trust you to take care of business for us?

We empathized with Graziano (and Garofola) to some extent. What were they supposed to do exactly?

We wonder if Graziano maybe had been eyeing retirement anyway, as the one who made his success possible, his mentor Joseph Massino, had become a kind of boogeyman among Mafiosi. The longtime old-school boss who had once been the embodiment of Mafia ruthlessness, who had helped mold Mafia history itself and was responsible for a stream of murders spanning decades, had flipped and testified, being the first New York mob boss to do so.

Massino elevated Graziano to consiglieri in 2001, when Bath Avenue strong man Anthony Spero, who spent 30 years in the Bonanno crime family, faced the racketeering and murder charges that would eventually send him to prison for the rest of his life.

Graziano was wealthy (he was known to make loans in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and, for a spell anyway, had used his then-son-in-law Hector Pagan as his collector) and had spent much less time in prison than his cohorts had. TG, as a capo on Staten Island, had generally kept a low profile. On his first Christmas filling Spero's shoes, he learned that it's much more difficult for high-ranking mobsters in New York City to keep their profile as low.

Renee Graziano, Drita D'Avanzo, Carla Facciolo, Karen Gravano.
Original cast: from left, Renee Graziano, Drita D'Avanzo, Carla Facciolo, Karen Gravano.

One night in December 2001, while leaving a popular bar-restaurant not far from his Staten Island home, Graziano  lost some weight much faster than he would've thought possible.

A team of FBI agents grabbed him for a brief chat about how much Christmas cheer he'd been given as one of the top men on the street for the Bonannos.

"What the fuck are you breaking my balls about now," he reportedly said as they held the search warrant in front of him.

The agents had been tipped off that Graziano had been given mandatory Christmas "tributes" earlier that night, and they wanted it for evidence for federal prosecutors in Brooklyn who were building a racketeering case.

The FBI seized $5000 stuffed in a single envelope and about $1200 more from Graziano, who got a receipt for the cash and was allowed to go home or wherever else you go in such circumstances.